We have our frozen meat order, we've gone to the fruit and vegetable market, we've stocked up on dry goods. We transformed on of our hanging lockers into a pantry. It has come in very useful. The whole boat is stocked to the gills. We went to the airport and got our new code zero which was air shipped from South Africa. I'd say we are ready to go!!!! We plan to leave the Balboa Yacht Club tomorrow morning to head to Las Perlas Islands. Bye Panama City, it was very interesting and educational.
Very full pantry!
Feb 7, 2010 – Balboa Yacht Club to Contadora, Las Perlas Islands, Panama – 40.5nm
We left Balboa after going to the gas dock to clean the boat again. It gets so dirty from being in the city. Unfortunately, they the gas dock had no diesel available. Go figure! We tried our new sail that we had waited weeks for and were disappointed when we realized it wasn’t cut to our specifications and it won’t roll up properly. It is very well made so we won’t despair yet, we will keep working on it to see what we can do.
New Code Zero sail
Contadora, Las Perlas
Feb. 8, 2010 - Contadora, Las Perlas to San Cristobal, Galapagos -- 936.82nm
We were hanging out on Isla Contadora in Las Perlas (the northern end of the Pearl Island Archipelago) but our hearts just weren’t into it. We took a dingy tour around the island, then we walked around the island. The Pearls have been home to three seasons of the popular CBS television series “Survivor”, with Contadora serving as the show’s base of operations.
The Shah of Iran used to live here when he was exiled many years ago. The Island has numerous private homes, and acts as a refuge for many of Panama's most wealthy families. Our Lonely Planet guide was very outdated however when it suggested that we could rent a golf cart at the hotel, when in fact the hotel doesn't exist anymore. There are many white sand beaches and the kids played for a while.
Chris decided he couldn’t stand it any longer, he was just itching to get going on the passage so after checking the weather one more time, we pulled up anchor at 4:00 p.m. and started on the journey to the Galapagos.
The first two days we had gentle breezes from behind and we used our new code zero sail and our spinnaker, then the next two days we had no wind as we moved through the ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone) alternatively the doldrums so we had to motor. The following days the wind really picked up and we found ourselves going upwind with full main and genoa! (not what I was expecting).
We had a bit of drama one night, (of course that is when these things happen)! The wind was really picking up after two days of no wind this was a good thing. Chris unfurled the code zero which for those non-sailors is a very large sail for light airs or going downwind. It is hooked on at the bowsprit, (a metal pole), that is held down by two ropes. At 5:00 a.m. when it was still pitch black and raining! one of the ropes on the bowsprit chafed through so instead of pointing down it popped right up preventing us from being able to roll up the sail. The wind kept picking up and we had this huge sail up there unable to get it down. We decided to just drop the sail onto the deck. Unfortunately I released the halyard too soon as there was so much pressure on it and the whole sail fell into the ocean but still attached to the boat!!!! Both Chris and I together managed to bring it back on board, then we shoved it into the sail bag. Our new sail covered in salt water and crumpled!
So our new RULE to add to our list is : Always use your newest equipment first, and keep the older stuff as a spare. This is counter intuitive to what we are used to doing: using up old stuff first.
We arrived outside the anchorage at 11:00 p.m. on February 14, 2010. (6 days;6 hours). However it was very cloudy and dark and visibility was not great so we floated around all night and came into the anchorage in the morning.
Feb. 13, 2010 - crossing the equator party
Welcome to the Galapagos!! (be prepared to part with some serious cash). The Galapagos Islands are part of Ecuador. The first island that is a port of entry is San Cristobal. There are two choices for yachts clearing in. The first is you just show up and you will be allowed to anchor in San Cristobal for 20 days but you cannot move the boat though the crew are free to roam. It is however very pricey to take boat tours to the other islands. (The boat anchored in front of us took a 5 day tour for $675US per person). The second choice is to hire an agent to get you an autographo which entitles you to stay 30-45 days and you can visit the three islands of San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Isabella. We decided to hire Bolivar as our agent. He met us Monday morning with the port captain and a lady from agriculture. We had to give them each some cash. We spent all afternoon riding around in the back of a truck going to the park administration, immigration, and getting photocopies. We had to pay for each one of these stops. We even had to pay for the truck to drive us around. He never returned our passports the next day like he said so a couple of days later we went to pick them up at his house and he charged us another $30.00 for some other piece of paper we needed!! At the end of the day we had spent a total of $900.00 USD!
San Cristobal is the capital of the Galapagos. The main town is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and has a population of 6000 people. The inhabited area was formed by a collapsed volcano that is believed to be 5 million years old. It is a typical fishing village, has a marvellous promenade for biking and strolling and lots of restaurants. The day we arrived there was a huge party of the beach with loud music. We are able to buy diesel, gas, and propane. There is a fruit and vegetable market on Saturday morning, several tiendas to buy supplies, hardware stores and even a couple of great bakeries that sell lots more than just buns and bread! That is what surprised me the most so far about the Galapagos. I was thinking we were going to be in a very remote location with not much of anything around. This is definitely not the case.
There are sea lions all over the place. They sleep in the moored fishing boats, along the dingy dock and by the beach. It was recommended to us that we not take our dingy anywhere as the sea lions will jump into it and may flip it. There are water taxis available for .50 cents a person. The harbour is busy with tour boats and fishing boats and it is amazingly clear water.
Our first stop was to visit the Interpretation Center, it is by the ocean, has wooden walkways and exhibits on the human and geological history of the island and plants and animals. It was very well done and interesting. We took a hike to the beach at Playa Punta Carola. There were sea lions playing in the surf. They do not run away when you approach them or walk by, they don’t seem affected by humans whatsoever. We saw some lava lizards on the hard, dark, pieces of lava that line the beach.
It was recommended to us by a fellow cruiser here in the anchorage that we close our back gates on the transom so the sea lions won’t come on board. I thought this was very farfetched, but we did it anyway and tried to barricade the two entrances. The sea lions seem to sleep alot during the day and are more active around dusk. They sound like a 300 pound man belching while coughing up a hairball. All this right outside your window! Lo and behold the kids came running into our room at 6:00 in the morning yelling that there was a sea lion in our cockpit. We ran outside and it was true - sleeping on my newly recovered cockpit cushions!!! Chris waved a towel at him and he very indignantly left. Night after night we can hear them trying to board our boat. We seem to have come up with a good system so they can’t get into the cockpit however there always seems to be a least one sleeping on the bottom step of the transom.
We decided to dig the bikes out. It was much easier to get them to shore in the water taxi then in our dingy -- a nice change. Good thing the taxi driver had a fine sense of humour as we hauled four bikes, snorkelling gear, the bike carrier and three bags of garbage into his taxi, along with sv Tumshi and their two bikes. We biked to La Loberia. We walked over the lava rocks and saw lots of lava lizards running around and marine iguanas sunning themselves. They are completely camouflaged and we nearly stepped on one. We then went snorkelling and saw 6-7 turtles and tons of fish that we haven’t seen before. Large school of fish float right beneath you. My favourite was of course the turtles and these small fish with bright blue eyes and brilliant yellow lips. It is different than in the Caribbean or San Blas. These fish and animals don’t move or dart out of the way when you come by, so one is able to observe them at close range. It is remarkable.
Fun water taxi ride - I hope we gave him a big tip!
Okay, so the sea lions are very cute when you first get acquainted but they are becoming tiresome. Every night they spent hours trying to board our boat while we try to scare them off. When we wake they always manage to somehow get into the cockpit. Then we have to clean the mud, fishy smell and small black hairs that are all over the place.
We have been dealing with Manolo from Sharksky. He has been letting us leave our bikes at his shop. This is permitting us to go biking everyday. Today, he got a driver for us, we put all our bikes and the carrier in the back of the truck and drove to the other side of the island in the highlands to the tortoise conservation centre then on to El Junco Lagoon where there is a volcano crater rim hike. We then biked back to town, which was for the most part all down hill. It was so fun, the road is not busy, and it is paved. That is my kind of biking.
We took a hike to Frigatebird Hill by the Interpretation Centre. Frankly, there were way more Frigate Birds at the colony in Barbuda but nonetheless it was a wonderful hike. However, it is not rustic, all the trails either have a wooden walkway built up or in they are in the process of a wooden walkway being built. I guess that in a way it is good so people stay on the trail and in one spot. There are so many tourists here. The park is supposedly monitoring the amount of tourists but it seems overrun to me.
We signed up for a snorkelling trip with Sharksky. They picked us up on our boat at 9:00 a.m. and we took the speedboat to Isla Lobos for snorkelling. Saw an octopus, a stingray, baby sea lions, and colourful school of fish. Supposedly, the mama sea lions leave their babies here while they go out to find fish for them. They call it the sea lion kindergarten. The coral seemed washed out though. We then moved to Leon Dormido (Kicker Rock) to snorkel with hammerheads and Galapagos sharks but because the water was so murky from the north swell we could not see far enough down. The guide dived down deep and saw some and took a picture for us. We were disappointed that we didn't see them with our own eyes. I’m still very proud of myself as I have been paranoid of sharks since my parents took me to see Jaws when I was eight years old! There were some nervous Aussie guys as well! After Kicker Rock, we went to Playa Grande beach for lunch. The kids played "Piggie in the Middle" in the water with the other people on the boat, university students and young adults from around the globe volunteering in the Galapagos to help get rid of invasive species, mostly mora's (blackberry bushes).
Sea lions on the transom
It is the rainy season in Galapagos which is probably good for us as we are having a hard time not getting sunburned. Even though we slather on the 50 spf sunscreen and wear sunglasses and hats, any exposed skin is burned. Ryan even got a sunburn on the top of his hands, poor guy.
The kids wanted to sleep in the cockpit to try to scare away the sea lions so we agreed. At 11:00 p.m. I woke them all up and made them move inside because I couldn’t sleep knowing they were vulnerable to the sea lions plus it was raining. In the morning, there were 4 that is FOUR sea lions in the cockpit, one on each cockpit cushion, one on the blue cushion the kids were sleeping on and one on the side deck. Obviously we need to work a little harder on our barricades. Unbelievable.
It is starting to get really busy in the anchorage. The World ARC boats are arriving, there are about 30 boats. We were planning to leave but have heard on the SSB radio that our friends on sv Kamaya our on their way in, so we will wait one more day before moving on to Santa Cruz so we can see them and the kids can play together.
February 24, 2010 San Cristobal to Acadamy Bay, Santa Cruz, Galapagos - 45.45nm
The anchorage is not very well protected so everyone seems to put out a stern anchor. It is a great idea and keeps the boat head into the swell. There are lots of tour boats here, it seems to be a very busy place. Santa Cruz is the most populated of all the Galapagos Islands with approximately 6000 people. If you want to buy a t-shirt, this is the place to do it. The whole main street is lined with restaurants, souvenir shops, art galleries, and tour/dive shops. I went to one tour shop to ask about a day tour to the island of Bartolome. They wanted $130 USD each with no discount for the kids!! So we will be skipping that one.
We walked over to the Charles Darwin Research Centre. This is a tortoise breeding and rearing center, where endangered sub species are hatched and cared for until they're old enough to protect themselves in the wild. Tortoises have been moved from other islands where they were in danger of becoming extinct. Lonesome George is here, he is the last surviving Pinta island tortoise, he is about 120 years old and the only one left in the world of his species. There is a $10,000 reward for anyone who can find him a mate of his own species. So start searching people!
We got back to the boat around 4:00 p.m. and found three new boats (from the World Arc) surrounding us and practically blocking us in. One of them is 80 feet to our starboard. We found out that they took off on a 5 day tour and the engine doesn't work! Although there is a couple staying on it to watch it. We discussed whether or not we should move and of course we should of but we were tired from the day and didn't feel up to the task plus we would of had to get the boat in front of us to move as he was probably on our anchor. I said well if the wind doesn't pick up tonight we will be fine. Of course as soon as it got dark, the wind not only picks up but does a 180 so the wind is now coming from behind and so the whole boat (and everybody else's) is being held by the stern anchor. It was raining buckets. If our stern anchor let go, then we would of hit the boat in front of ours as they were anchored too close. One local sailboat in front of us did drag right into a large tour motor boat. After a few hours the wind died down and everything calmed down. But we definitely are not comfortable being so boxed in like this.
The morning of February 27th (Andrea's 10th birthday!) we were woken up by a knock on our hull at 5:00 a.m. by some World Arc cruisers telling us that we had to get out as there was an earthquake in Chile and there could be a Tsunami at 0715 here. We are so thankful that they told us as we don't keep our radio turned on at night (new rule - Keep radio on at all times!) We had plenty of time to evacuate, however we had to extricate ourselves from our crowded in spot. We tidied the boat quickly, lowered the dingy, retrieved our stern anchor. We were concerned about the boat in front of us' stern anchor, being on or too close to our bow anchor. There didn't seem to be anybody on the boat, fortunately the water taxi dropped them off just as we started hauling up the anchor. It was tight but we got our anchor up and were on our way, motoring out of the anchorage at full speed. We went about 3 miles out into 500 feet of water. After motoring/sailing around for 5-6 hours the port captain allowed everyone back into the anchorage but suggested someone stay on the boat as an anchor watch. The water level was still going up and down not normally. We chose a different spot that we hoped would give us more room - bad idea!!! (see below)
We spent the rest of the day celebrating our little girl turning ten!! We made lots of food and cupcakes and watched some new movies that she received. Chris took them kneeboarding and tubing, but the swell was so large that he couldn't drive the dingy very well, but we felt we had to do something special for her birthday.
Motoring around until its safe to go back to the anchorage
Damage from the Tsunami. Two boats were damaged that we know of. One, as mentioned above didn't have anybody on board as their owners and crew were off touring and the people minding the boat couldn't move it as the engine didn't work - they had some stanchions ripped out, and it got bashed up pretty good by the boat anchored beside it. It was left in the anchorage as well as the owners decided because they have kids aboard it would be safer to go ashore to high ground and not head out. They must have got thrown into each other. Their anchors were all wrapped around each other as well. What a mess!
The following morning at 0700, we were woken up by a knock on our hull by a National Park boat saying that we had to move because they were bringing a large boat in and we were in their spot. I was so ticked! We spent 2 hours trying to find a spot in the crowded anchorage and after trying a few different spots, came back and anchored in our same spot just in front of the big boat. Hopefully they will leave us in peace for the rest of our stay here.
We took a water taxi to the Finch Bay Hotel dock. We went onto the rocks to watch the marine iguanas swimming in to shore to sun themselves on the lava rock. Then hiked past Punta Estrada Beach, the salt mine where local residents sometimes extract salt for their use and for processing sea products. Then up to Las Grietas, which is a fissure in the volcanic rock. Once you climb to the top in the sweltering sun, it is a refreshing swim in the saltwater swimming hole. There were lots of people there jumping off the cliffs (actually it was some of the same people that were on the boat on our snorkeling trip in San Cristobal -they told us that everyone in San Cristobal was evacuated from their homes and up to higher ground). Andrea and Ryan were trying to climb up to jump off but the rocks were too slippery (thank goodness, I think I have had enough stress over the last 24 hours!)